Oct. 30, 2007
IOWA CITY — As the exciting victory against Michigan State on Oct. 27 indicates, the University of Iowa football team has done an admirable job protecting its home turf. Now the Hawkeyes are looking to become road warriors Saturday against Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.
Iowa is 3-1 this season at historic Kinnick Stadium, but winless in four road trips. The Hawkeyes enjoyed success in Chicago once already this season — a 16-3 win over Northern Illinois at Soldier Field. Northwestern is 5-4 overall, 2-3 in the Big Ten and Iowa is 4-5, 2-4. The Wildcats have won the last two meetings (28-27 in 2005 and 21-7 in 2006), but Iowa has a lopsided 45-20-3 advantage in the all-time series. Kickoff is 11:02 a.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
“The good news is we’re playing better at Kinnick,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Now the next step is to find out on the road. Playing on the road requires a little different focus and concentration. It’s another challenge for us this week.”
Iowa has won 30 of its last 35 games in Kinnick Stadium, dating back to the 2002 season.
Wildcat quarterback C.J. Bacher has been scorching opposing defenses this season to the tune of 311.8 passing yards an outing — the sixth highest total in NCAA Division I. Bacher also leads the Big Ten and is seventh in the nation in total offense (316.1). Something will have to give when Iowa’s stingy defense meets the wide-open Northwestern attack. The Hawkeyes are 19th in the nation in scoring defense (18.2 points per game) and fifth in the conference in total defense (335.2). Northwestern leads the Big Ten and is eighth in pass offense (313.0) and second in the league in total offense (433.8 yards per game).
“Northwestern is a very, very veteran ball club,” Ferentz said. “They’re very well-coached, play extremely hard and they’re a good football team. They’re playing with confidence, they’ve got veteran players and it will be a tough challenge for us.”
Iowa leads the Big Ten and is nationally ranked in two categories — turnover margin (plus-9, ranked 11th in NCAA) and punt returns (13.2 average, ranked 18th in NCAA).
Ferentz said the last two games against Northwestern boiled down to the Wildcats being ready and then playing hard for the entire contest.
“The last two years they’ve been prepared to play and then they played the full 60 and we didn’t,” Ferentz said. “Last year you had a team that showed up and you had another team that didn’t. We were lucky to be 21-7 in that run because that score was not indicative of the beating that they gave us.”
“The good news is we’re playing better at Kinnick. Now the next step is to find out on the road. Playing on the road requires a little different focus and concentration. It’s another challenge for us this week.”
UI Coach Kirk Ferentz
Although Northwestern has won three of its last four games this season the Hawkeyes will not take a back seat momentum-wise following the 34-27 double overtime win against Michigan State a week ago. Iowa erased a 14-point third-quarter deficit and posted its sixth consecutive win over the Spartans in Iowa City. Running back Albert Young rushed 34 times for a game-high 179 yards and two touchdowns, marking the 12th time in his career that he has topped the 100-yard plateau. He ran for 99 yards in the third period.
“Any win right now is significant and important,” Ferentz said. “I think the way the guys fought and rallied, it certainly was great to see that.”
Ferentz said that an unexpected “positive” of the season has been watching the maturation of young players who would not have seen as much playing time if it hadn’t been for injuries.
“That’s one of the positives right now,” Ferentz said. “I wouldn’t say it was a master plan, but the good thing is we’ve seen growth with all those guys.”
Some of the youngsters jumping at the opportunity to excel so far have included freshmen defensive ends Christian Ballard and Adrian Clayborn, freshman linebacker Jacody Coleman, freshman tight end Allen Reisner and freshman wide receiver James Cleveland.
“Our receivers have no choice,” Ferentz said. “They’re making progress and you look at a guy like James Cleveland who had a spectacular game. Cleveland really blocked extremely well, as well as anybody we’ve had maybe outside of (Kevin) Kasper.”
Ferentz said that senior defensive back Adam Shada will miss the Northwestern game because of an ankle sprain. Senior defensive back Devan Moylan and junior Jordan McLaughlin will also be out. Sophomore defensive end Chad Geary “has a chance” to play despite suffering an elbow injury against Michigan State.
Iowa captains for the game will be senior end Bryan Mattison and senior linebacker Mike Humpal on defense and Young and senior fullback Tom Busch on offense.
Click HERE for the Big Ten Network home page.